The Edmond Sun


May 21, 2009

NFL star found fame on field, alcohol and painkillers off

EDMOND — On a fateful day in 1985, Jim Riley realized how many people had been hurt by his behavior. He was the subject of an intervention.

Athletics opened many doors for Riley, today an established Edmond resident. It also opened him to temptations.

Enid High School has produced many great athletes, including the NBA’s Mark Price, wrestling’s Gary Breece, Major League Baseball’s Ray Hayward and NFL players Lydell Carr, Ken Mendenhall and John Holt.

Enid also produced Riley, an All-State football player and prep All-American in 1963.

An intense, physical player, Riley played both offense and defense in high school, and positions including center and tackle on offense and noseguard and end on defense. He then headed to play football for legendary coach Bud Wilkinson at the University of Oklahoma.

Off the field, Riley started drinking alcohol.

In 1967, Riley was drafted as a defensive lineman in the second round by the Miami Dolphins.

At Miami, Riley was an original member of the Dolphins’ notorious “No Name Defense.” He also played in two consecutive Super Bowls and was part of the only undefeated team in NFL history, the 1972 Dolphins.

Football is a contact sport, and athletes often play with pain. When he played with Miami, prescription painkillers were legally available in the Dolphins locker room, Riley said.

Like other players, he took them.

In 1972, a knee injury ended Riley’s football career. What ensued in his personal life was an addiction-driven downward spiral.

In 1968, Jim and Robin Riley became husband and wife. By the beginning of 1985, Jim’s alcoholism, his disease, was progressing, Robin said. It seemed to be affecting his children more. His son’s anger was growing toward his dad.

Robin said years earlier she had heard about interventions, but at the time she didn’t think the tactic would work for Jim. She called a professional interventionist and prayed, asking God if this was his will for her husband.

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